Venezuelan Navy Detains Guyanese Fishermen in Guyanese EEZ

venezuelan navy
The Naiguata, a sister ship of ANBV Comandante Eterno Hugo Chávez (file image)

Published Jan 24, 2021 10:19 PM by The Maritime Executive

The government of Guyana has accused the Venezuelan navy of intercepting and detaining two Guyanese fishing vessels within Guyana's own EEZ. 

Guyana's foreign ministry confirmed reports that the Guyanese fishing vessels Lady Nayera and Sea Wolf were intercepted by the Bolivarian Navy patrol vessel ANBV Comandante Eterno Hugo Chávez (GC-24) on Thursday. The Chávez ordered the captains of the two fishing vessels to divert to Port Guiria, Venezuela, where the boats and crews were detained. The ministry has not yet been formally notified of the detention by Venezuela, it said Saturday night, and it is still seeking to determine the status and welfare of the fishermen. 

"Guyana condemns in the strongest possible terms this wanton act of aggression by the Venezuelan armed forces against Guyana and Guyanese citizens. This Venezuelan action amounts to an interference with the sovereign rights of Guyana in its EEZ, contrary to international law," the ministry said in a statement. 

In a claim dating back to the colonial era, Venezuela asserts that all of Guyana west of the Essequibo River (an area accounting for 73 percent of Guyana) is Venezuelan territory, including the EEZ extending from the region's shoreline. Guyana's outer continental shelf has strong oil and gas development potential, and licenseholder ExxonMobil has made about one dozen promising finds in areas on the southeast side of the line. 

The Guyanese foreign ministry noted that the interdiction followed shortly after a decree by Venezuelan President Nicolas Maduro to establish “a new maritime territory of Venezuela called ‘Territory for the development of the Atlantic Façade,'" encompassing Guyana’s territorial waters, EEZ and OCS. "Guyana has emphatically condemned this Venezuelan decree as a flagrant violation of its sovereignty and sovereign rights, and of fundamental rules of international law," the ministry said. 

Guyana called for the immediate release of the seized fishing vessels and their crews.